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Building stairway codes specify the size and placement requirements for safe, accessible stairway landings & platforms. The minimum recommended stair landing length is 36" (or a length and width sufficiently greater than the swing of the door if a wider door is present). This stairway landing or platform dimension is often also expressed as "a minimum of 36-inches in the direction of travel.
This means that where codes like the IBC require a public access stairway (occupancy of more than 50) to be at least 44-inches wide, the platforms will have to be 44-inches in the direction of travel as well; the same IBC permits a 36-inch wide stairway for occupancies of 50 or less, thus permitting the stairway length of 36 inches in the direction of travel.
Using the 2003 IRC as a stair landing code example, we obtain the requirement for landings at the top and bottom of the stairway and a maximum stair rise of 12 feet before an intermediate landing is required. Our photograph at left illustrates an antique stairway at el Jaral de Berrio Hacienda in central Mexico. And though it should go without saying, the recommended stairway landing or platform width is equal to the stairway width.
The minimum recommended stair landing length is 36" (or a length and width sufficiently greater than the swing of the door if a wider door is present. Notice that a stair top landing is not required if the door at the top of the stair opens away from the stairwell.
We often find older one and two family homes at which a door opens directly onto a stairway without a top landing platform. As you can see in our photo at left, a door is opening out over a stairwell and no landing is provided. Because the ergonomics of a person placing their hand on a doorknob and opening the door tends to guide where they put their foot in stepping out and down, the absence of a landing here is a serious trip and fall hazard that is prohibited by building codes and by good construction practice. In industrial settings where there may be special requirements for maintenance of equipment but not normal walking traffic, a landing or platform requirement will differ.
Reader Question: I am finishing my basement and planning to install a landing at the bottom of the stairway that will be 2 steps (one actual step) down to the floor. My question is - since there is no door at the bottom of the steps, is there still a requirement that the landing be 36" deep? Due to the proximity of a support post, the landing will only be 2'9" deep, unless I come back up another step and have three steps down from the landing. Typically building stair codes specify that in the direction of travel the stairway landing or platform shall have a dimension at least as great as the width of the stairway.
In one approach the builder would back up far enough from the end of the stairs to have room for a full width landing, insert the landing there and then continue the stairs down to the left. The user would walk down stairs, and near the end, step onto a full-sized landing, make a left turn, walk across the landing, and continue one or two or however many necessary additional steps to get down to the finished floor.
But our email discussion you point out a competing difficulty: moving the landing up one stair tread runs into a headroom clearance with the floor above. As I understand your illustration (above left), the problem is that making the landing length (in direction of travel) equal to the width of what I am guessing is a 36-inch wide stairway means that you'd have to build the platform out intruding into the otherwise free space of the room below.
If the inspector will not accept your stair as drawn, you may have to open the ceiling, install blocking or headers to allow you to move the post over to get enough room, then intrude the landing those few inches into the room beyond. As our friend Nizar in the photo is demonstrating at his home near Rabat, in Morocco, it can be very difficult to open a door that swings out over a step while you're standing on the step. Like the example shown above, this is a trip hazard but in this case also it's also difficult to enter the building at all. While standing on the step the person trying to open the door has to step backwards, down the steps, while opening this security door. The stairway landing shown at left includes a window that lacks a guard railing or safety glass.
Thinking he was walking down a level hallway he instead stepped into air and fell down a stair such as this one. Safety glazing or window guards are required for locations such as that shown in our photograph. Handrailings at intermediate stairway platforms should be continuous and should be accessible in the area of stair passage. There is a railing along the upper stairway starting at a newell on the fourth stair platform but not along the steps formed by the four platforms (marked in yellow) except along the left wall (marked in green) where no one will ever set-foot. In the area of principal walking assage from the two sides of this four-riser lower stairway there is no handrailing. On wide stairways you may get by with a pair of wall rails or a railing down the stair center. I imagine that the architect who designed these stairs liked the attractive and open design with a two-sided approach to the stairway. The entry platform or landing at exterior stairs must comply with size and guardrail requirements as do interior stairs and landings.
The concrete platform was poured right against building siding, providing a protected entry path into the structure for wood destroying insects. The combination of platform poured against siding and poor drainage sending water towards the house walls increases the risk of insect attack as well as ice formation in winter at this New York home.
Stair treads and landings subject to wet conditions shall be designed to prevent the accumulation of water. Anon your top guardrail needs to meet the height requirements for balconies and landings - typically 43-inches along horizontal walking surfaces such as a landing platform. Most codes want the stair guard to also be 42-inches in heigh but will allow that to drop to 34-inches if the top of the stair guard is also to serve as a handrail.
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The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Make sure you follow us on Facebook to be the first that gets our latest plans and for some other exclusive content. Also, follow us on Pinterest to get many ideas for your backyard from all the internet! A planter bench is a great addition for decks and small gardens, as they add character and enhance the look of any backyard. To Tip: You should adjust the size of the bench planter to your needs, but use the same carpentry techniques to get the job done.
You can also add some 1×4 pieces under the frame to create a small clearance space between the ground and the frame. Fit 2×2 supports under the frame, if you really want to enhance the rigidity of the frame. As you can see you can learn how to build this garden bench in just one weekend, if you follow my step by step plans and instructions. The secret for a neat result is to select perfectly straight slats and to take accurate measurements before making the cuts.
Top Tip: Apply several coats of wood stain to protect the wood from rot and to enhance its rustic appearance. My 9 year old son and I built this in a weekend, because I needed to get him away from screens. If you are all about saving money and minimize waste, you could make the slats for the planters 24″.
This DIY Storage Bench from Better Homes and Gardens, uses decking as the cladding for a very useful place to sit or stash your stuff. Build this attractive storage bench from Sunset for your patio and you can even store unsightly hoses in it.
Attempt this cute paneled storage bench from Canadian Home Workshop if you have some woodworking experience.

Try this simple-to-build slatted storage bench from Ana White, inspired by West Elm’s Wood Slat Storage Bench.
Fencing is usually thought of as something that contains or separates, but you can add it to your balcony simply for decoration as well. Keep in mind that fencing doesn’t just have to divide the balcony from the rest of the world—you can put it against the wall for decoration or as a place to grow vines, or use it to divide two halves of the balcony from each other—the grilling side from the gardening side, for example, Get creative and have fun with your fencing! Great seating, pretty plants in cute containers, and fun fencing are just the starting points for a beautiful balcony. I bought a 7foot black steel trellis from Home Depot and secured it with black zip ties to my 2nd floor balcony railing.
I have just moved into an efficency with a huge balcony almost the size of the room itself.
I live in a hi-rise and hung a chair hammock from my balcony ceiling giving me a relaxing retreat and great view of the city in the Summer.
Your balcony sounds lovely but my first thought was that you want to be careful that everything is securely anchored so that it doesn’t fall onto someone. I Have a really small balcony thank is separated from my living room only by a glass door and windows.. I love the idea of putting up a fence on my balcony, especially because I am on the ground floor which faces a busy street, so passers by are constantly peering into my apartment.
Now that you have a glass door that lets you look out into the balcony at all times, it’s time to decorate the balcony itself.
One or two well-placed lamps or lanterns are really all that is needed to give your balcony a designer touch. If you would like to spend time seated in your tiny rectangular balcony, here’s what you can do. Thanks for all the great suggestions, I have smallish-like balcony and want to sit down, have a great view of my downtown city. I live in a high rise apartment building and am considering putting in a commercial type, garage overhead door (with transparent panels) with an automatic garage door opener. It will come down and abut to the balcony railing (the balcony ends are closed in and the railing solid).
I used indoor outdoor carpet from home depot i bought a razor and cut it out to the dimentions..
They were kind of pricey, but not bad if you have expendable income and a smaller patio, like mine.
I’ve covered the ugly floor of our balcony with wooden tiles from Ikea- they drain really well and make it very pretty and gives it a bit more of a clean feel.
But note that not all model building codes explicitly require the 36" dimension and instead commonly state that in the direction of travel the landing dimension shall be no less than the width of the stairway. The platform or walking surface can be wider, of course, such as occurs when stairs end at a balcony, deck, or walkway. Some opine that if the door swings into a room, away from that top step, the hazard is reduced and a landing is not required. Doors in the fully open position shall not reduce a required dimension by more than 7 inches. So if your stairs are 36-inches wide the codes want the platform to run 36-inches in the direction of travel. This might mean that the landing is two or even three steps higher, to get enough room away from an obstructing wall found in the direction of run of the stairs.
And even if you did so, you have a supporting post that intrudes back into the walking space. If your stairway is 36-inches in width, then typical codes want the run direction of the landing to also be 36-inches. Someone who falls down these stairs is at risk of suffering extra severe injuries should they fall into and break the window glass, or worse, fall right through the window. S., was returning from a night-time bathroom visit when, elderly, frail, and confused in the dark, he turned left instead of right. Incomplete handrailings invite falls if stair users are likely to walk where there is no graspable handrailing or where open rail ends at intermediate platforms or landings form snag hazards.
It is possible that a local official approved these stairs though in my view they are unsafe. That may comply with the letter of the law in the view of some designers or code compliance officers but in my opinion this is an unsafe stair that would be difficult for elderly or people with walking and stair disabilities.
I would expect an alert building code compliance officer to interpret this as an unsafe stair and call out this as a code defect.
I'd have put a handrailing down the steps exactly where the architect would omit it - in the area marked by yellow at the right angle between the two stair treads on the two sides of the platform rectangle. In addition, because of weather exposure entry platforms are at risk of additional slip trip and fall hazards from water, snow and ice, or algae and moss. And yes, as you can see in our photograph (above left) it is possible to combine a stair-guardrail with a handrailing along a stairway. However as you see in our CIA photo, it's not difficult to add a lower handrailing along a 42-inch stair guard.
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The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively.
If you like to spend time in your garden, but a simple outdoor bench is a little too common for your tastes, you should consider building a nice wooden bench with two planters attached on both sides. There are many designs and shapes you could choose from, starting with a simple bench adjacent to a large planter, up to more complex constructions, such as a wooden bench attached to two planters. Work with good judgement, making sure all the components are aligned, before driving in the screws. In order to add personality to the planter bench, we recommend you to build the trims from 2×4 lumber.
Make sure the large planters are aligned properly, before building the wooden bench between them. This outdoor bench is extremely sturdy and if you invest in weather resistant lumber, such as cedar or redwood, it will be the attraction point of your backyard for many years in a row. In addition, you need to make sure the edges are perfectly flush before inserting the screws and nails.
You don’t have to fit large containers to the planters, as you have an easier alternative to fill them with lively flowers.
Therefore, fill the head of the screws with a good wood putty and let it dry out properly for several hours.
If this design is not what you are looking for, I suggest you to take a look over my other projects. If you want to see more outdoor plans, check out the rest of our step by step projects and follow the instructions to obtain a professional result. I would be thrilled to see how your planter bench looks like so feel free to send a few images. Another method would be to assemble the panels by attaching the braces to the slats and them joint the four sides together. Whether you’re into large or small containers, trellises, or window boxes, patio or balcony gardening is a great way to lend color and excitement to your outdoor space.
Your balcony, especially if you’re not on the first floor, probably already features a barrier of some type for safety reasons.
Once you have these fundamentals in place, add accessories like cute outdoor sculptures, birdhouses, outdoor lighting, or even specially designed, weather-resistant outdoor artprints.
I hang potted plants from it in the warm weather and in the winter I use it to hang suet as well as apples and oranges for the squirells and birds (woodpeckers, chickadees, juncos etc) in my area.

If possible, you could consider having two glass doors, in the center of the wall, leading out.
If you do, don’t do anything that will obstruct the view, since having a nice view is a rarity in large cities. If you’ve decided to fill up your balcony with plants to conceal the bad view, place a slightly large brass statue between the plants. Consider opting for a few hanging plants, and divan-type seating, using the three corners of the balcony as backrest. It stands up to washing off all the grime from my highway-city location and has weathered very well. If I put a lot of plants (herbs) out, I hate lugging the gallons and gallons of water from my kitchen sink out to the patio every day during the summer.
We got a bristro set and a high and low floor planter, which gives us a nice coverage of foliage.
This can be tricky because in some jurisdictions codes specify varying minimum stairway widths.
Are you saying that if there is another railing against the other wall, it would comply or are you saying that there is no way to comply with 4 platforms without a railing at the corner of the platforms (that would not look right). Make this handrailing attractive and you've changed a safety problem into a beautiful stair feature.
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After selecting the right plans for your needs, you should buy quality materials for the job, such as cedar, redwood or pine slats.
Work with great care, making sure the corners are square and the joists perfectly aligned one with another. Use a spirit level to make sure the walls are perfectly plumb, otherwise the planter won’t be symmetrical. Use a spirit level to plumb the supports before securing them with screws to the planters, otherwise the seat won’t be perfectly horizontal.
Drill pilot holes trough the slats, countersink them and insert the 2” screws, or drive the screws trough the supports in the slats.
You can 1×2 fit cleats to the interior of the planters and then create a false bottom just a few inches from the top. Read on for some top tips on filling up your balcony with tasteful accoutrements so you can fully enjoy your outdoor space.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t add more attractive or taller fencing to increase the style and privacy of your balcony.
There are many ways to make your outdoor space fun and enjoyable, so don’t wait another day before decorating your balcony! I recently have sett up octagonal bricks to one side to create an area to place various plants.
The one thing is that I don’t get much sun so the plants I choose will have to need minimal sunlight.
Simply take an old trunk, cover it with bright phulkari embroidered cloth, throw on a couple of matching cushions, and you have a perfect seating arrangement. Which provides in some difficulty for seating arrangements, but that isn’t my biggest problem. Our building has natural gas hookups on the balconies so we have a small grill, which is awesome. Every landing shall have a minimum dimension measured in the direction of travel equal to the width of the stairway. Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order.
Make sure the wooden components are perfectly straight and in good condition, before starting your project. Moreover, don’t forget to countersink the head of the screws, before inserting the wooden screws. The best part is it looks great on my deck, my wife loves it, and I may have started a new passion with my son.
If you only have a small space to work with, consider multipurpose seating like a storage bench (with matching planters) that can store your extra items and provide a great place to relax as well. If you don’t find yourself using your balcony much, add a few plants and some seating and see if you start spending more time outside. Enclosing small balconies do make sense, but often new constructions don’t allow you to enclose balconies or make any changes that affect the fa?e of the construction.
Hang plants over the entire length of the balcony, from the parapet above, in little round pots, equidistant from each other.
On the other hand, if you have a good view, consider placing a few plants in one corner of the balcony, and place a smaller brass statue amidst the plants. Mood lighting is essential, and is far preferable to functional lighting in a small balcony.
Hang a lamp just above the seat, so you can turn it on when you sit out in the evenings and read.
I also put a water-proof storage bin that has a bench-like seat in the lid and we store our winter clothes out there in the summer (in waterproof vaccumm sealed bags) and in the winter we put our bistro set and the wood tiles in there, along with our shorts and stuff in those previously mentioned bags. Galow specializes in residential construction including both new homes and repairs, renovations, and additions.
Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Last but not least, add a good wood glue to the edges of the components, in order to enhance the bond of the joints. If you don’t need the storage space, a cute bistro set offers both seating opportunities and a place to put things—you might even find yourself having breakfast outside on the patio for the first time ever. The more you like your balcony surroundings, the harder you’ll work to keep improving them. Check your local craigslist for postings advertising leftover fencing parts, or ask local garden stores. Hanging plants will still lend the illusion of space, while somewhat concealing the bad view. They are also elevated, as I mentioned, so water goes through them to drain out, and they don’t stay wet. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material. Make your own unique containers for gardening, and work on using a variety of colors in your planting. You can easily make your own fence if you’re ambitious, or repaint readymade fences to make them your own. If the view is truly terrible, if you overlook a garbage dump or a car garage for example, do all you can to completely conceal the view with the help of taller plants. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference eBook purchased as a single order. Whether you like richly colored trees, bright little marigolds, or hardy hostas, a little planting will go a long way toward making your balcony a more attractive and appealing place to be. Look into bamboo fencing for something really different, or go with a traditional picket fencing look.

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